Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Eh, What's a Little Wind? Part 2

This is Part 2 of the story I began with the last post.  If you're finding this first, please scroll down and read the prior post or else this will make no sense at all.

We last left our heroes on the day after Hurricane Jeanne as they are about to set sail for the Steelers/Dolphins game.

Sun is shining… who needs a rain poncho?  I leave mine in the room and head down to the bus.

Fan Club folks ask for help loading all the kegs and ice.

Ed suggests using the hotel rolling luggage carts.  Brilliant!

Load up on Bus #3, next stop, Pro Player Stadium!

Actual next stop, Publix grocery store.  The Emperor needs Heinz ketchup instead of Hunts.  Three buses full of people pull in and wait for him to come back with some Heinz ketchup.

Rain begins pelting bus, as a “Feeder Band” rolls through.  I begin rethinking the whole poncho thing.
A feeder band rolling through.

It's still raining as we pull into Pro Player Stadium.  
Pro Player Stadium as we pulled in.

But then the sun comes out.  Who needs a poncho?

Tunes crank, beers flow, Here We Go Steelers, Here We Go.
It's Party Time, Picksburgh-style.

A Woman from bus says I look just like a friend of hers who is a Ravens fan and hates the Steelers, and wants to take my picture all dressed in my Screaming Yellow Shorts and Black Game Jersey, with Terrible Towel Accompaniment.  She is draped in a very cool Pittsburgh flag, and anything that upsets a Ravens fan is OK with me so we take pictures of each other.
Steeler-Flag Girl

Another Feeder Band is visible on the horizon. 

A man appears selling yellow ponchos for $3.  Sold!

Our cousin Angela appears with her friend Zach.  All now present and accounted for.
Party Time, Family-Style
My brother and Angela begin throwing the football around.  Angela totally has a gun on her.  She’s whaling the ball to Ed from about 40 yards across the parking lot.  As it turns out, the next year Zach and Angela become contestants on Fear Factor.  Zach mentions Angela’s football prowess and all-around jockhood on national television.  They then go and win the thing over some much larger competitors, bring pride to Pittsburgh and glory to the family name.  But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Angela and Zach, from a screen-shot during Fear Factor.

Feeder Band comes through on way into stadiumEveryone breaks out their ponchos.

Poncho turns out to be a garbage bag with 3 holes in it.  At least it’s yellow.  Rain is done by the time we reach our seats.

Seats are in the 2nd row from the top, back corner of the endzone.

No one is behind us.  No one in any of the 5 rows in front of us either.  Making mental note to move down if they remain empty. 

First Quarter, Feeder Band comes through and leaves just as quickly on and off with the ponchos.

Second Quarter, Mother of all Feeder Bands comes through, lasts almost the whole quarter.  Animals are lining up 2 by 2.  Raining blowing horizontally from right to left, then blowing horizontally left to right.  Baseball infield gathers an inch of standing water.  (see pic)  Hard keeping leaks out of poncho, but I remain mostly dry. 
 The grounds crew try to drain the "swamp" at halftime.

Poor Angela has no rain gear, and gets thoroughly soaked.  Oh well, she’s young; she’ll recover.

Rain stops at halftime, Game On.  We consider moving to closer seats, as the stadium is not even half full.  But as our seats are still dry because of having our butts in them while it was raining, we decide to stay put.  Steelers go on to win the game 13-3 behind first time starting QB Ben Roethlisberger.  Life is good.

Final score, minus 28 seconds.

Reassembled at the bus for trip home.  We wait 20 minutes on the bus, for reasons unknown.

Reasons known… someone had stolen the $400 beer tap system, which was inexplicably left out during the game while the bus drivers were huddled on their busses during the rain.  Just as well, if the beer taps would have still been there, it would have been hours before getting back, because the Fan Club would have spent the time getting drunk again and congratulating themselves on what great fans they are.  An hour after getting on the bus, we’re back at the hotel, and ready for bed.

Monday 9/27
 Bob and I decide to leave on Tuesday.  For Bob, he has the opportunity to chill in Lauderdale for a day, the only real relaxing day of the trip.  For me, I had been scheduled to stay through Wednesday, back when my folks were going to be here.  Didn’t want to hang the whole time alone, so I shorten my stay and plan to fly to visit my sister in Cincinnati on Tuesday instead.  Bob gets a new flight to Charlotte, with weather considerations resulting in no extra charge.  I’m routed through Philadelphia and have to pay a $100 rebooking fee.  There are no considerations.  I can see how someone might want to pay $100 to get out of Philly, but not to get in.

Ed hits the road early and later, Bob and I hit the breakfast buffet.  They’re out of eggs.

We take a walk down the beach and back, not a cloud in the sky.  Sit by the pool reading and working on tan.  Have lunch and drinks at the poolside bar.  Life is good.
 Our hotel is the building at the upper right of the picture.

We watch the weather channel, learn that Jeanne is expected to arrive in Philadelphia on Tuesday, roughly the same time that I do.  This is bad.

Take a walk to local beach shop, check into getting a Henna Tattoo of Steelers logo.

They don’t do Henna Tattoos in color.  (What the hell do I know?)  Idea is scrapped.  Real tattoo costs $160.  Never mind.

We walk to Hooters for Monday Night Football.  Main room is hot, muggy, and loud.  We spot a side room, with TV and A/C.  Wings, beer, Monday Night Football and Hooters Girls…  life is good.

Tuesday 12/28
We check out, and grab the hotel shuttle to the airport.  We draw the worlds most entertaining van driver, Mr. Glickman, I believe, who is from Brooklyn.  (32 years in the garment district, now retired to Florida)  He regales us with stories of meat pilfering geezens, mooning his nosey neighbor lady who’s looking in his window, and sitting at a social function with 6 blue-haired ladies, discussing how one of them has a sore mouth from… well, never mind.  You had to be there.

Bob’s flight leaves on time.

Mine does not.  First, it’s delayed a half hour, and then bumped to a full hour. 
When we eventually get off the ground, we circle Philly for a half hour, and end up at the gate a full 2 hours late.  Our friend Jeanne is dumping inch after inch of rain on Philadelphia. 

Upon disembarking, I check the monitors and find that my connection has also been delayed.  Was supposed to leave at 5:40, now to be leaving at 8:15.  It’s currently 7:30.  I take a bus across the tarmac to one of the far terminals.  As I walk up to the gate, they’re just now announcing the change to the 8:15 departure.  Hmm, took them a while to make that announcement.  I saw it up on the monitors 15 minutes earlier.
Upon further review, I learn that the flight that is supposed to be in Philly, to go on to Cincinnati, had been diverted to Norfolk.  As the time is now 7:45, I know full well that we’re not going anywhere at 8:15.

To try to stay one jump ahead, I go to the “Courtesy Desk” to try to book on the next flight to Cincinnati, scheduled to leave at 9:00.  No can do, they’re booked solidI ask about how to get one of the “distress rates” they give at a local hotel, when weather cancels your flight.  (and the airline doesn’t have to put you up)  Sorry, they give you a special slip, but only at the gate, and only after the cancellation has been announcedSo much for thinking ahead…  I said, “I’m just trying to avoid the stampede and long lines that are going to happen if the flight cancels.”  She says, “Honey, there have been stampedes and long lines all night.”  Touché.

At 8:00, I notice on the monitors that my flight has now been bumped to 9:30Part of me wants to go get some dinner, now that I have all that time before the next flight, but something stops me.  Remembering the gap between the monitor change, and the gate announcement, I beat feet back to the gate, hoping to hear some greater detail. 

As I hover near the ticket counter at the gate, they indeed make the announcement… that the flight is now cancelled.  I look around and I’m in pretty good shape.  Only 3 people are in front of me in line.  Remembering the previous trouble getting a last minute room, I feel a bit better that I won’t get closed out of the hotel.

I rebook on the first flight out Wednesday morning, at 8:00, and get a voucher for a $69 rate at a local Ramada.  I’m welcome to take my checked bag with me, but of course, it’ll be an hour or two before they can bring it out.  Looks like I’ll be going primitive tonight.  All I have is the clothes on my back, and my contact lens stuff in my shoulder bag. 

As directed, I make my way to the baggage area to call the hotel on one of their courtesy phones.  I ask the guy finishing in front of me if he’s calling the Ramada.  He shakes his head no, but the guy beside me pipes up, “they’re booked up.”  Christ, not this again…

Well, I call them anyway, and hey, they have openings.  I book it, and head out for the shuttle.  I ask the other guy if he mentioned the distress rate before they froze him out.  He hadn’t. 

I proceed to check into the dumpiest Ramada ever.  First thing I see when I get off the elevator on the top (7th) floor is a giant garbage can, catching a steady water drip from the crumbling ceiling tiles over head.  Welcome to Philadelphia.  While the room didn’t leak, the table was rickety, the bed was lumpy, and they didn’t even have shampoo in the room.  (But thoughtfully provided 4 bars of soap)

By this time, it’s 9:30 and I haven’t eaten since breakfast.  I figure I’d go down to the bar for a burger and well deserved beer.  I sat at a table in the bar for 10 minutes, failing to get anyone’s attention.  (by “anyone” I mean “anyone who will bring me a burger and some beer”)  They probably couldn’t see me through all the smoke in the place.  Eventually, I say screw it, and walk around to the restaurant part and have my dinner there.

Twice during my meal, a hotel employee walks through the dining room talking to himself, “I hate this place, I’m going to burn this damn place down.”  Says the same thing, both times.  I want to suggest sleeping on it and reconsidering in the morning.  Hmmm, maybe that wasn’t cigarette smoke back in the bar.  Glad I’m traveling light, at this point.  I may have to bug out quick, especially the way this trip has gone…

Wednesday 9/29
After getting up, washing my hair with a bar of soap, and putting on yesterday’s clothes, I made it to the airport and onto my flight to Cincinnati without incident.  That’s when I encountered The Beast

My seatmate, a young, well-dressed, businessman-looking fellow, had The Beast.  Those familiar with “Seinfeld” may know the episode regarding a valet parker with B.O. so offensive, it took on a life of its own.  This guy had it.  Every time he moved, it would just radiate from him.  The guy was probably stranded too, but good God, buy a Speedstick like I did.  I spent the trip huddled against the window, trying to breathe exclusively through the air jet. 

After an interminable hour and a half, we landed in Cincinnati, where I was picked up by my sister and brother-in-law, and was able to begin the “relaxing” portion of this supposed vacation.  Lots to eat, lots to drink and a great big TV.  Life is good.

The Cincinnati Estate.
So what have we learned from this adventure?
1.                  Persistence is key, but preparation is crucial.
2.                  Keep all airline and hotel phone #s in your cell phone.
3.                  Have your out of town game tickets in hand, before you leave.
4.                  Never book a hotel in Florida in hurricane season, without making a backup reservation inland.
5.                  Never order pizza delivery in downtown Miami, even if they do speak English.
6.                  Nothing beats local storm coverage, for unintentional audio-porn.
7.                  When looking for a quality hot meal in times of emergency, find an Italian diner.
8.                  Put the beer back on the bus.
9.                  Always keep some toiletries in your carry-on bag, to keep The Beast at bay.
10.             Lastly, never underestimate what a Steeler Fan will endure, in order to go support his team.

Related note, next year we travel to see the Steelers in Green Bay!  What could possibly go wrong with that?
So, that's the story.  This weekend, we'll see what Miami and Lauderdale have in store for us this time around.  It's just New Year's Weekend, the week after an airline terrorist incident... what could go wrong?

Final Note:  Absolutely nothing went wrong with the Green Bay trip.  The game was in October on a beautiful fall day.  Thoughts on that trip may be found on my 12/20/09 post.


One-Eyed Dick said...

I don't get it. What was the adventure? Sounds like just another day in paradise to us down here....

Oh, the Philly part. Yeah, I agree, that would be scary, having to spend a night there. Ugh.

Hey, that guy you saw walking through the Ramada saying he wanted to burn down the place wasn't a Nigerian kid named Abdulmutallab by any chance, was it?

bluzdude said...

The Philly part was definitely the adventure. That first night, though, I was seriously worried we'd be spending the night in the car.

The guy walking through the Ramada was a young white kid... seriously pissed off. And from looking around that dumpy hotel, it would have went up in a second. I was counting on the torrential rain to put out any prospective fire.